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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Moammar Gadhafi’s Son Faces Trial Next Month

This image made from video distributed by the Zintan Media Center shows Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, center, inside a defendant's cage in a courtroom in Zintan, Libya, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (Zintan Media Center via AP)

This image made from video distributed by the Zintan Media Center shows Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, center, inside a defendant’s cage in a courtroom in Zintan, Libya, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (Zintan Media Center via AP)

It has been nearly two years since Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted from power and killed by rebels.

His son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who was the public face of his father’s regime during the revolution of 2011, was captured in the Libyan desert late that year.

Since then, he has been held in the town of Zintan, which was a hotbed for the opposition to his father. High up in the Nefusa mountains of western Libya, few places suffered more than Zintan during the Libyan revolution.

Rebels from the town helped liberate Tripoli in the summer of 2011.

Saif Gadhafi faces charges of crimes against humanity, but there has been a fight over where to try him.

The International Criminal Court in the Hague has tried to extradite him, but Libya has resisted and plans to put him on trial next month.

The BBC’s Andrew Hosken reports.

Reporter

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW. And it's been nearly two years since Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted, killed by rebels. His son Saif, who was the public face of his father's regime during the revolution of 2011, was captured in the Libyan desert late that year. Since then, he's been held in the mountain town of Zintan, which was a hotbed for the opposition to his father. Saif Gadhafi faces charges of crimes against humanity, but there's been a fight over where to try him. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has tried to extradite him, but Libya has resisted and plans to put him on trial next month. The BBC's Andrew Hosken reports.

ANDREW HOSKEN: The grim determination of Zintan to see Saif al-Islam Gadhafi tried and sentenced here is not hard to understand when you sit in the town's market square by the shrine to the war dead and look at the photos of the hundreds of dead Zintani soldiers who died in the revolution of 2011.

HALID AHMEDCO: Sometime I feel from (unintelligible)...

HOSKEN: Every month during Zintan's life or death struggle against Colonel Gadhafi, former rebel Halid Ahmedco(ph) would stand on top of the post office and photograph the cemetery reserved for the war dead. As they say, a picture says 1,000 words, doesn't it...

AHMEDCO: Yes.

HOSKEN: ...as they say.

AHMEDCO: Do you know something? I take dead pictures. But in every moment I see it again. It is like first time.

HOSKEN: No rows of white crosses set in pristine burial grounds as you can find far to the east in Libya at Tobruk, instead mounds of desert sand marked by simple headstones, mounds which increase in number execrably during the fighting, a total of 400 local martyrs.

AHMEDCO: I just still think and ask myself and first picture or second picture if we just get our freedom at that moment, we will have not to lose who (unintelligible) picture as grave, as bodies.

HOSKEN: With its population of 40,000, Zintan is a hard mountain town full of hard mountain people. After seeing off Gadhafi's army, the Zintanis helped to capture Tripoli, 100 miles away. And then in November 2011, they captured the dead dictator's second son and rumored heir apparent, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SAIF AL-ISLAM GADHAFI: (Foreign language spoken)

HOSKEN: Saif's bellicose television appearances during the revolution threatening rebels with retribution in particular infuriated the Zintanis and formed part of the evidence against Saif of his alleged war crimes.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO ZINTAN BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

HOSKEN: Radio Zintan is one of the green shoots of democracy, sprouting from the sands of a free, although unstable Libya.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO ZINTAN BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Singing in foreign language)

HOSKEN: Much of the station's audience believes that Saif should be tried in Libya and preferably in Zintan. Adweed Kalifa(ph) is the station's controller.

ADWEED KALIFA: (Through translator) I definitely think that Saif Islam should be tried here in Libya. First of all, Saif Islam is a Libyan citizen. His crimes were committed in Libya. He was arrested in Libya. I mean apart from the fact that he's Saif Islam, what's the difference between him and any other Libyan? He's somebody who did something wrong in Libya and should be tried here like any other Libyan.

HOSKEN: After months of wrangling with the International Criminal Court, Libya has now rejected demands for Saif to be tried in The Hague. To get to where the Zintanis have buried the men who fought for Colonel Gadhafi, you have to travel out of town some way before turning down a mud track and across a few fields before reaching here: a piece of scrub land, inhabited mainly by crickets it seems, and strewn with rocks and rubbish and beer cans. There are 20 or so graves here, and for many Zintanis, it's a pity that Saif is not among them. But former rebel Ahmedco disagrees.

AHMEDCO: You know, a lot of people especially (unintelligible) families, they want to execute and kill Saif, but that is not solution. You can kill Saif anytime. It's very easy. Just one bullet, you can do what you want. We want a chance a lot of (unintelligible) by one step because he killed our sons and sisters and brothers. No, we have to send him to the (unintelligible). We have to see him in the cage inside court. If someone did wrong thing, he will see same thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HOSKEN: Saif al-Islam has accused Libyan authorities of a blatant disregard for the ICC. The ICC doesn't believe he can receive a fair trial in Libya. But both charges make little impact in Zintan. The Libyan government's announced Saif will be put on trial in August and in Libya.

YOUNG: Andrew Hosken of the BBC in Libya. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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